Major Tom’s dander is up. His cub is dying of the Morient Virus, and this cat knows that the Ramses Empire’s sworn enemies are responsible (the deceitful feline Baastards!), but imperial bureaucats have ordered him not to go to their planet to recover the antidote. Well, it’s easier to beg forgiveness than to ask purrmission. Ready for heroism, space, spies, and lives in the balance (and some humor)? Read “Purr Mission.”
Purr Mission is the first story in the “Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire” series, and is FREE everywhere.
Targeted Age Group:: 12+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Cats. Why did I decide to write a story about cats? I didn’t, really.
Purr-Mission started with a spy being pursued by the enemy. They shoot him down over a distant planet, and although he started out human at the beginning of the writing, by the time he crash-landed and was holed up in the cave, he had taken on some feline characteristics. At that point I was thinking bipedal tigers, but that morphed into the final evolved, bipedal housecats they have become.
Major Tom (yes, I know that name evokes other thoughts) has more at stake than JUST saving the world – he has to save his cub, and I think that gave the story the pull-at-your-heart strength it needed.
Purr-Mission was my seventh completed work, and my first story to receive an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future Contest. (I’m sure that positive reception had an influence on my decision to take Purr-Mission from a stand-alone story to the first in a series.)
How is writing Science Fiction different from other genres?
Writing SciFi gives you a lot of latitude for making things up (unless you're writing HARD SciFi, and then you have to at least try to come up with ideas that SCIENCE says MIGHT be POSSIBLE. You do need to have consistent rules for how things work, whether strictly science or not.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My characters tend to wander about, muttering in my mind until a story calls them out that they identify with. As I've said, I didn't realize that Herc Tom was a cat until I'd been writing for a while.
“We have pursuers, Major.”
The scanner showed four blips rising from Baast on a direct course for the Q-B transit point. We’d be through well before they caught up, but if they had half a brain between them they’d know where we went. Nothing we could do about it.
“What’s our burst status?”
That was enough to get us to the Q-B point, and we passed through and made for Lamia to put the planet between us and their pursuit. Shadow was good, but marked as we were, we were going to need the FTL-B again to ensure our escape. We started our 67-minute countdown.
At 57 I started thinking we’d caught a break. Maybe they wouldn’t be coming through. Maybe we were wasting our time.
At 52 Shadow read the tell-tale pops of the four fighters. Must have had to wait for orders. We still needed more time.
“Take us down into the atmosphere.”
We descended and waited. If they didn’t head straight for Lamia. If they checked the Q-R point first. If they thought we’d already gone through. If wishes were fishes…
They came to Lamia.
At 36 the first fighter found our transmission. Cloaking still gave us some advantage; we were able to take him down pretty quickly, but not before he’d signaled the rest of his squadron.
Once the three of them converged on us the fur flew.
At 23 we took out one more, but not before they scored a lucky hit with a marker flare that rendered our cloaking moot. It was like being invisible while carrying a neon sign.
We rocketed out of the atmosphere, the remaining two fighters on our tail. If the FTL-B was charged we’d have had them beat, but without it we’d have to use evasive maneuvers that would slow us down at the same time we were trying to outrun them. The odds were against us making it to the Q-R point unscathed, but I’d been through worse.
I felt gears grinding in the cockpit sidewalls.
“Shadow, what are you doing?”
“Starting pod separation sequence, Major.”
The instrument screen split into two; the main fighter on the left, control pod on the right, with a 90-second countdown in progress.
“No, Shadow, we can make it.”
“Negative, Major. There is a 97% chance we will be destroyed or disabled before we clear the sector.”
We were still outrunning the fighters, maintaining a tight trajectory above the atmosphere. Fifty seconds.
“It’s worth the risk. The vaccine…”
“My prime directives are to prevent our technology from falling into enemy hands and protect the Major’s life. This is the only way.”
“Command override Charlie-Baker-five-zero-two.”
“Sorry Major, this cannot be overridden. Prepare for pod separation.”
Shadow rolled us so the planet was overhead. I felt bolts pop and we were jettisoned away from the fuselage in the command pod. A fifteen-second countdown appeared on the left screen. Shadow kicked on the after-burners on the main section and killed the cloak. It sped away from us, then dipped into the atmosphere and started throwing off sparks. Two missiles zipped past us chasing the spark trail.
At zero on the countdown there was a bright flash, and the left side of the screen went black. I watched a scattering of embers descend toward the planet. The fighters flashed by.
Then the pod shuddered.
I hate uncontrolled reentry.
Our pod skipped across the atmosphere like a stone across hot lava, then was dragged below the surface and started shaking violently. External and internal temperature readings, altitude, velocity all scrolled in brilliant green inside my helmet. My vitals were in red; a couple of them were jumping off the charts.
Calm down, Tiger. Just because the molecular buffer skin of the pod is glowing red hot doesn’t mean you need to let your fur stand on end. Breathe. Chill out.
I released my claws from the side rails and focused back on the pod readings. Should be another three minutes of buffeting, then I’d go into a relaxing free-fall and wait for the computer to deploy the chute. Another night in paradise.
A couple of blips showed behind us. Those sorry fur-balls couldn’t leave well enough alone.
“You’ve shot me down, already!”
They’d follow me to the surface a bit slower than I was going; the Spitzes they flew weren’t built for that kind of speed in reentry. They’d take their time catching up with me, and then finish me off. Not crying in my whiskers, mind you. War is war.
The pod stopped rattling. Ahhh, free-fall.
It was a shame we’d lost the fighter, though; hell of a prototype. Even compromised by the temp-pack, four of their fighters barely handled her, and she took out two in the process. Just one more reason for their friends to be all hissy.
Command would be even more pissed if I ever got back.
I felt the pod jerk upwards as the chute deployed. Shadow projected a glide plan on the screen; she was aiming for a forested hillside, so the trees could help slow our descent. Checked those blips again; still coming. I’d have about 15 minutes before they caught up. I studied the topography and scanned the area for defensive possibilities. There was a scattering of caves in the hillside that might do.
The pod broke through a couple of trees and hit the ground. No time to lose. I popped the shell, grabbed my pack and Shadow’s housing, set the pod’s self-destruct, and started running downhill toward the nearest of the caves. I switched my flight suit to “play dead” mode as the hot blast cast shadows ahead of me in the dark. I didn’t look back, and reached the cave with my night vision intact.
I moved in as deep as I could and considered the odds. The fire raging up the hill would give me thermal cover, and between that and my suit I should be invisible to them. With any luck, they’d think the blast killed me and leave; the sooner the better. Then I could send a signal to Command and get the vaccine home.
I checked the digital readout on the pack. Temp was still holding steady; good thing, or this whole trip was for nothing.
I watched my scanner and waited. The pair of them arrived over the fire and hovered there, then they split into a search pattern. One of them drifted up over the crest of the hill, while the other slowly wove their way downhill toward me. I thought the gods might be smiling on me; they were, but it was more like a smirk. There wasn’t enough rock to hide the temp-pack’s signature. The Spitz paused over my location, then broke out of the pattern and flew off. They weren’t leaving. The terrain was too rough to land near me, so the two of them set down on a less wooded hilltop three kilometers to the east.
This nine lives nonsense gives you the feeling that you have all the time in the world.
I checked the scanner. He was still out there, lounging over the cave. He’d kept his position since they’d first arrived from their landing site. Pretty good concentration. I had him pegged as a first-lifer; I guess I was wrong.
About the Author:
William Mangieri is a blogger, karaoke junkie, former theater student, and recovered wargamer, who spends far too much time inside his own head (he's not alone in there, so don't worry. Or maybe you should…) He grew up (as much as he did) in New England, but now he writes from Texas, where he lives with his wife and the ghost of a nine-pound westie (who still dreams of being a cat.)
"Purr Mission" was the first of his three Honorable Mentions in teh Writers of the Future contest.
Links to Purchase Print Books
Link to Buy Purr Mission Print Edition at Amazon